A combination of nanotechnology and a unique twisting property of light could lead to new methods for ensuring the purity and safety of pharmaceuticals. A direct relationship between the way that light is twisted by nanoscale structures, and the nonlinear way that it interacts with matter, could be used to ensure greater purity for pharmaceuticals, allowing for “evil twins” of drugs to be identified with much greater sensitivity. Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have used this relationship, in combination with powerful lasers and nanopatterned gold surfaces, to propose a sensing mechanism that could be used to identify the right-handed and left-handed versions of molecules. Some molecules are symmetrical, so their mirror image is an exact copy. However, most molecules in nature have a mirror image that differs — try putting a left-handed glove on to your right hand and you’ll see that your hands are not transposable one onto the other. Molecules whose mirror-images display this sort of “handedness” are known as chiral. The chirality of a molecule affects how it interacts with its surroundings, and different chiral forms of the same molecule can have completely different effects. Perhaps the best-known instance of this is Thalidomide, which was prescribed to pregnant
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